In the Old Testament, compassion was a response to need. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (ed. R. Laird Harris [Chicago: Moody Press, 1980]), states that the word is an “emotional response which results (or may result) in action to remove its object . . . from impending difficulty.” The word is used to describe emotion in both humans and God.
The word is also used in the Old Testament as an expression “to love deeply” or “to be compassionate,” or “to have mercy.” In this regard, the word is used to describe God’s love for human beings.
In the New Testament, the Greek words also express emotion. “Oiktirmos” conveys a sense of pity at the sight of the suffering of another person. When the Greek word “splanchnizomai” is translated “compassion” it is a deep emotion that produces a response. It provokes an action in the individual to relieve the suffering that is taking place. When Jesus felt compassion for a person (or peoples) it was often the turning point in the individual’s life.
How do I model compassion for others the way that Jesus did? Does someone in need cause me to emotionally reach out to that person? Do I care enough to get involved? Do I care enough to help by taking some action that may be a turning point in that person’s life?
If you struggle with lack of compassion for others, ask God to change your heart…and to give you opportunities to “practice” responding to others in need.